As more baby boomers reach old age, the need for physical therapy assistants is expected to grow dramatically. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that the number of physical therapist assistants and aides will grow at a rate five times faster than the national average for all occupations in the U.S. between 2018 and 2028. These positions should be in incredibly high demand.

On this page, readers can find information about the best online associate degrees for aspiring physical therapy assistants. The following sections explore typical courses in associate-level physical therapy programs, common admission requirements, popular careers, and answers to a few frequently asked questions.

What Are the Best Physical Therapy Assistant Programs of 2020? Here Are Our Top Three:

Rank School Location
1 State Fair Community College Sedalia, MO
2 Santa Fe College Gainesville, FL
3 San Juan College Farmington, NM

Physical therapy assistantship is a growing profession in the U.S. The BLS projects 26% growth for this career between 2018 and 2028.

Earning an online associate degree for physical therapy assistants provides students with the training and education they need to enter the workforce in this profession. Graduates can also go on to earn a bachelor's, master's, or doctorate in physical therapy.

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2020 Best Accredited Online Associate in Physical Therapy Assistant Programs

Rank School Location Cost Graduation Rate Description Toggle
1

State Fair Community College

Sedalia, MO Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 30%

Located in Sedalia, Missouri, SFCC serves approximately 4,700 students every year. The college offers an associate of applied science degree for aspiring occupational therapy assistants. Distance learners can complete general education courses online through the Canvas platform before taking major coursework on campus.

The 80-credit curriculum covers topics like medical conditions in occupational therapy, mental health and psychosocial practice, and functional kinesiology. Students gain practical skills through 16 credits of field experiences.

Students must earn a minimum 2.5 GPA in general education courses before they can enroll in major courses. SFCC charges tuition rates based on residency status. Over 75% of students receive some form of financial aid. SFCC's occupational therapy program is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education.

2

Santa Fe College

Gainesville, FL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 57%

Based in Gainesville, Florida, SF oversees programs in eight broad fields, including education, business, and health sciences. SF offers an associate in physical therapy assistant program. Students in this program can complete many required courses online.

Classes cover topics like kinesiology and anatomy, principles of disease, and therapeutic modalities. Students also complete extensive clinical training under the guidance of a licensed physical therapist. Full-time students can graduate in about three years.

First-year applicants must submit ACT or SAT scores or sit for an institutional placement exam. SF powers distance learning with the Canvas platform. This physical therapy program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education.

3

San Juan College

Farmington, NM Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 28%

One of the largest two-year schools in New Mexico, SJC serves more than 15,000 students annually. The college offers an associate in physical therapy assistant program. The curriculum is delivered in a hybrid format, and students can complete several of their courses online.

The curriculum consists of 65-69 credits and includes courses like introductory anatomy and physiology, therapeutic exercises, and rehabilitation principles. In addition to labs at SJC's Farmington campus, students must complete clinical externships in outpatient and rehab settings.

SJC evaluates applicants based on their GPA; ACT, SAT, or entrance exam scores; and professional and academic recommendations. The school prefers New Mexico and Colorado residents. This physical therapy program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education.

Online Associate in Physical Therapy Assistant Program Overview

Students who earn an online associate degree for physical therapy assistants typically graduate in 2-3 years. However, the amount of time it takes to graduate varies depending on the program and whether each student enrolls full time or part time.

These programs cover topics like anatomy and physiology, exercise physiology, behavioral science, and kinesiology. Some programs also include clinical study components, allowing students to gain practical experience in the field.

Learners need to pass a licensure exam after graduation to work as physical therapy aides or assistants. Prospective students should look for programs that hold accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education; these prepare students for licensure.

Many graduates go directly into the field after graduation. However, students interested in becoming full physical therapists must continue their education.

Common Associate in Physical Therapy Assistant Degree Courses

Kinesiology

Students in this class study human movement and fine motor control. Participants learn about human anatomy and how different parts of the body relate to functional and dysfunctional movement. This course teaches learners how to incorporate kinesiology topics into their physical therapy practice.

Motor Development and Aging

This course delves into the biopsychosocial aspects of aging from birth to death. Students learn about the different influences that shape the aging process in the body, including biological and psychological factors. Coursework also touches on the social aspects of aging and how these can impact motor skill development and deterioration.

Neurological Rehabilitation

This class covers various disorders affecting the nervous system, which coordinates actions and sensory information in the body. Students learn the basic principles of neurological study and how to apply it to rehabilitation. Learners also examine the neurological development of young and aging populations.

Musculoskeletal

Coursework combines components of anatomy and physiology to teach students about muscular and skeletal systems. Participants learn about muscular attachments and the nerve innervations of the major muscle groups.

Rehabilitation Assessment

This course teaches learners how to assess injuries in athletes and other patients. Students learn to evaluate joint range of motion and muscle strength. This course also touches on building rehabilitation plans for various injuries.

Online Associate in Physical Therapy Assistant Admission Requirements

  • Standardized Test Scores

    Many colleges require applicants to submit ACT or SAT scores, and some schools prefer one test over the other. However, many schools do not set a minimum test score requirement for applicants pursuing an associate degree.

  • Minimum GPA

    Many associate programs require a minimum high school GPA. This usually ranges from 2.0-3.0, although students with a lower GPA may still be able to gain conditional admission.

  • High School Diploma/GED Certificate

    A high school diploma or GED certificate proves that students completed certain prerequisite courses in math, English, and science. Applicants may need to submit official high school transcripts.

  • Letters of Recommendation

    Colleges may ask for 1-3 letters of recommendation from applicants. These letters are usually written by the applicant's bosses, teachers, and/or coaches. These documents should explain why the student would make a good candidate for the program.

  • Placement Exam

    Colleges that do not require standardized test scores may ask students to take a placement exam instead. These tests allow universities to measure an applicant's aptitude in standard subjects, including reading, math, and science.


Online Associate in Physical Therapy Assistant Career Paths

According to the BLS, physical therapy assistants and aides earn a median annual salary of $48,990. These professionals work directly under trained and licensed physical therapists, helping patients recover from illness and injury. Most physical therapy assistants only need an associate degree to enter the workforce, although all states also require some form of licensure.

Occupational therapy assistants and aides offer similar recovery services. These professionals need an associate degree and some form of licensure. They commonly find work in occupational therapy centers, hospitals, and nursing care facilities. Occupational therapy assistants make a median annual salary of $59,200.

Related Careers

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a physical therapy assistant do?

A physical therapy assistant aids in injury recovery and prevention. These professionals work under the supervision of a physical therapist in private practices, hospitals, schools, and nursing home facilities. These assistants can help develop treatment plans and offer injury prevention advice.

Is it hard to be a physical therapy assistant?

Individuals who want to work as a physical therapy assistant must earn an associate degree and licensure. Most of these professionals work directly with patients of all different ages and abilities. Physical therapy assistants need a firm understanding of the body and strong interpersonal communication skills.

Is a physical therapy assistant degree hard?

Students who earn an online associate degree for physical therapy assistants complete science courses in biology, physiology, and anatomy. Depending on a student's background, these courses may be challenging. However, individuals who work hard can graduate and find a rewarding career.

How much do physical therapy assistants make?

Nationwide, these professionals earn a median annual salary of $48,990. However, individual salaries depend on a worker's job title, location, and experience. Certain states may pay higher salaries to physical therapy assistants because of higher demand and/or a higher cost of living.

How long do you go to school to become a physical therapy assistant?

An associate degree typically takes about two years to complete. Students with transfer credit earned from previous education, work experience, military experience, and/or AP exams may earn their degree faster.

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